A federal jury in Wilmington, Del., recently decided RTP Co. has not infringed on three plastics compounding patents held by LNP Engineering Plastics Inc.
But LNP, an engineering resins compounder based in Exton, Pa., already plans to ask the court to overrule the jury's verdict. If the verdict is allowed to stand, LNP will appeal the decision to the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
``LNP believes that the evidence as presented at trial is insufficient as a matter of law to sustain this verdict,'' LNP officials said in a news release.
LNP President Richard Burns said he doesn't expect a federal judge to rule on the verdict until early next year.
``We're still open to a settlement, but I'm not sure how that would come about at this point,'' Burns said by telephone Nov. 25.
RTP officials declined to comment on the verdict, which included the dismissal of three of LNP's 18 claims against Winona, Minn.-based RTP.
The suit centers around LNP's patents covering long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics. The materials are plastic compounds, usually consisting of nylon or polypropylene, which are filled with long strands of glass or other similar additives.
Most LFRTs to date have been used in the automotive and sporting goods markets, in applications like bumper beams, dashboard panel supports, bicycle wheels and frames and snowboards.
LNP claims to control 35-40 percent of the global LFRT market, estimated at at least $75 million a year. RTP holds less than 5 percent of the global market, according to LNP estimates.
LNP filed the suit in late 1996 against RTP, Polymer Composites Inc., also of Winona, and DSM Engineering Plastics Inc. of Evansville, Ind.
DSM agreed to stop its LFRT production at the end of 1997. Polymer Composites, a division of Hoechst AG's Ticona unit, agreed to cross-license LNP's LFRT technology late last year.
The legal wrangling hasn't stopped LNP from aggressively expanding its LFRT business, which operates under the Vertron trade name. The company installed a new LFRT line in Columbus, Ind., earlier this year and will add a similar line in Thornaby-on-Tees, England, in January. Each of those plants are expected to receive an additional LFRT line in January 2000 as well.
``The market is large today and it's just going to get larger,'' Burns said.
Both LNP and RTP rank among the top 25 U.S. plastics compounders, according to a recent industry study by Frost & Sullivan of Mountain View, Calif. According to that report, each company holds 1-2 percent of an annual market estimated at almost $9 billion.